Kaldi and his dancing goats are said to be the first to discover coffee. This goat herder and his charges enjoyed the berries and energising properties by chewing the green ones whilst raw.
It was not until 1258 A.D., that Sheik Omar discovered the benefits of roasting coffee at Ousab in Arabia. Omar had been driven out of Mocha into the desert where it was expected he would die of starvation. Having nothing else to eat Omar decided to eat berries, once finding them bitter he tried to improve the taste by roasting them. After roasting, he added water and became refreshed and revitalised – the magical properties of coffee helped Omar triumph and he was named a saint. A century later, Arabs began roasting the berries over the fire and grinding them up into animal fat – they named this drink “qahwa,” which means “that which prevents sleep.”
The joy of coffee continued to spread across many empires and each culture adopted different roasting techniques. The most popular roasting methods were roasting over open fire and baking inside ovens. It was not until the Industrial Revolution in the 1800s that large roasting equipment was invented.
Once buying roasted coffee became the norm in the mid to late 1800’s, laws were put in place to protect buyers from purchasing coffee mixed with other products. Germany passed the first laws to guarantee coffee purity in 1875, taking the coffee roasting trade out of private kitchens and into factories.
During the second half of the 19th Century, coffee roasters around the world experimented with their heating and cooling sources, roasting cylinders and ventilation.
By 1889 Carl Salomon of Braunschweig introduced a quick roasting technique using the principle of hot gas ventilation. Salomon found that he could reduce roasting time to just 20 minutes by determining how many spins per minute a bean must make so that it would tumble into the hot air stream blown into the roaster. For the next 200 years, many roasters would use the basic principles behind Salomon’s design.
Commercial roasting enjoyed many years of prosperity, however, home roasting has begun to experience a revival. Bringing roasting back into the home allows coffee quaffers to experiment with beans and various roasting methods to create their perfect roast.
Photo by Alan Jakub